Thursday’s Den: Schedule notes for AFC teams…….

AFC East
— Visit New Jersey in Week 1 Monday nighter, Aaron Rodgers’ Jets’ debut.
— Play Jaguars in England in Week 5.
— High expectations; play only five games at 1:00 Sunday.
— Have only two home games in last seven weeks of season. 

— Start season with road games at Chargers/Patriots; visit Buffalo in Week 4.
— Finish season with four home games in five weeks.
— New Year’s Eve in Baltimore could be a cold weather game.
— Play Chiefs in Germany in Week 9.

New England
— Open season with home games vs Eagles, Dolphins.
— Week 10, they play the Colts in Germany.
— Weeks 14-16, play three straight primetime games, two of them on road.
— Last seven games are all potentially cold weather games.

— Five primetime games, plus the Black Friday game vs Buffalo.
— Only six of their 16 listed games are 1:00 Sunday games.
— Two games with Miami aren’t until Weeks 12, 15.
— Finish regular season with road trips to Cleveland, Foxboro. 

AFC North
— Play their three AFC North road games in Weeks 2-4-5.
— Weeks 11-16, play four primetime games, with their bye week mixed in. — Play 49ers in Santa Clara on Christmas night.
— Finish regular season with home games vs Dolphins, Steelers. 

— Open, close season with games against Cleveland.
— Have four primetime games; two at home, two on road.
— Host Buffalo in Week 9 Sunday night game.
— Visit Chiefs in Arrowhead on New Year’s Eve.

— Have four home games and a bye in first six weeks of season.
— Only two primetime games: Week 2 at Steelers, Week 17 vs Jets.
— Weeks 7-13, play five road games in seven-week span.
— Weeks 12-13, they have consecutive western trips, to Denver/LA Rams.

— Open season with home games vs 49ers, Browns.
— Have four primetime games, three of them at home.
— Bye week is in Week 6, fairly early.
— Finish season with road games at Seahawks, Ravens. 

AFC South
— Low expectations; 15 of their 16 listed games are at 1pm Sunday.
— Games with the Colts are in Week 2, then in Week 18.
— Play consecutive road games only one time, Weeks 14-15.
— Bye week is in Week 7; when will rookie QB Stroud become a starter?

— No primetime games for the Colts.
— 13 games at 1:00 Sunday; low expectations.
— They play New England in Germany in Week 10.
— Three of their last four games are at home.

— Weeks 4-5, they play consecutive games in England, vs Falcons/Bills.
— Also have three primetime games, two of them at home.
— Only one of their last six games (Week 18 vs Titans) is a divisional game.
— Week 14 in Cleveland is likely a cold weather game.

— 14 games at 1:00 Sunday indicate low expectations.
— Play Ravens in England in Week 6.
— Two primetime games: at Steelers in Week 9, at Dolphins in Week 14.
— Five of their last seven games are in Nashville.

AFC West
— Sean Payton era opens with home games vs Raiders/Commanders.
— Start season vs Raiders; finish regular season in Las Vegas vs Raiders.
— Four primetime games, including visits to Kansas City, Buffalo.
— Weeks 13-15, three consecutive road games, all in domed stadiums.

Kansas City
— Super Bowl champs open at home on Thursday of Week 1 vs Lions.
— Have six primetime games, plus game in Germany vs Miami.
— Two games with Denver are close together, in Weeks 6-8.
— Week 13 in Green Bay, Week 15 in Foxboro figure to be cold weather games.

Las Vegas
— Open season with road games at Denver, Buffalo.
— Four of their primetime games are at home; go figure.
— Giants/Jets visit Las Vegas in consecutive weeks (Weeks 9-10)
— Eight of their last ten games are in domes.

LA Chargers
— Have six primetime games, four of them at home.
— Play consecutive road games only one time, Weeks 2-3 at Titans/Vikings.
— Two games against Denver are in Weeks 14, 17, both in December.
— Week 13 in Foxboro, Week 17 in Denver are potential cold weather games.

Tuesday’s Den: Schedule notes for NFC teams……

NFC East
— Open against Giants for 7th time in last 12 years.
— Weeks 5-6, consecutive west coast games at 49ers, Chargers.
— Three of their first six games are in primetime.
— Week 15 in Buffalo, Week 18 in Washington- potential cold weather games.

— Four of their first six games are in primetime.
— Week 2, @ Arizona; Week 3, Thursday game at San Francisco
— Weeks 9-11, consecutive road games, at Las Vegas, Dallas, Washington
— Play their last two games at home, vs Rams/Eagles.

— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Host old friend Jonathan Gannon when Cardinals visit New Year’s Eve.
— Have five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Two games against the Giants are in Weeks 16, 18.

— Low expectations from NFL; Week 5 is only primetime game.
— Weeks 6-10, have four road games in five-week span.
— Visit Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
— Have a late bye, Week 14.

NFC North
— Play Green Bay in their opener; rematch is in Week 18.
— Have four primetime games, three of them on road.
— Weeks 8-12, have four road games in five-week span, all in domes.
— Weeks 14-18 all figure to be cold weather tilts (@ Cleveland/Green Bay)

— Four primetime games, including Week 1 at Super Bowl champ Chiefs.
— Week 14 at Chicago is their only outdoor game after October 22.
— Weeks 13-17, have four road games in five-week span.
— Two games against the Vikings are in Weeks 16, 18.

Green Bay
— Open with road games at Chicago, Atlanta.
— Week 6 is an early bye week.
— Have five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Visit the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. 

— Short work week in Week 2, Thursday game at Philadelphia.
— Five primetime games, three of them on road.
— Chiefs visit Twin Cities in Week 5, a Super Bowl IV rematch.
— Week 11 at Denver, Week 15 at Cincinnati potential cold weather games.

NFC South
— Play five of their first six games at home.
— Week 4, they play the Jaguars in England.
— Week 13 at Jets, Week 17 at Chicago potential cold weather games.
— 13 of 16 listed games are at 1:oo ET; low expectations from NFL

— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Weeks 12-14, have road games at Titans, Bucs, Saints.
— Two primetime games; Week 2 vs Saints, Week 10 at Chicago.
— Frank Reich’s old team, the Colts, visit Charlotte in Week 9. 

New Orleans
— Four of their first six games are on the road.
— Weeks 13-15, have three consecutive home games.
— Short work week in Week 16, a Thursday game at the Rams.
— Week 17 at Tampa Bay is their only outdoor game after October 8th.

Tampa Bay
— 12 of 16 listed games are at 1:00 ET; low expectations.
— Two primetime games; Week 2 vs Eagles, Week 8 at Buffalo.
— Baker Mayfield faces Carolina, his old team, in Weeks 13, 18.
— Week 15 at Lambeau Field figures to be a cold weather game.

NFC West
— No primetime games; very low expectations.
— December road games in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philly……..brrrrr
— Their three NFC West road games are in Weeks 4-6-7.
— Have Week 14 bye week, very late.

— Three of their first four games are on the road.
— Weeks 5-7, have three consecutive home games.
— Two primetime games: Week 3 at Cincinnati, Week 16 vs Saints.
— Week 14 at Ravens, Week 17 at Giants figure to be cold weather games.

San Francisco
— Open season with road games at Steelers, Rams.
— Have three consecutive home games, in Weeks 3-5.
— Have five primetime games, three of them at home.
— Week 13 at Philly, Week 17 at Washington figure to be cold weather games.

— Week 5 bye week is an early one.
— Have three primetime games, two of them on road.
— Host the 49ers on Thanksgiving night.
— Have four of last six games on road, but none in cold weather. 

Friday’s Den: 13 of my favorite sports-related movies…….

13) Rocky— The original was a true classic; a journeyman boxer gets a chance to fight for the heavyweight title, and makes the most of it. 40 years later, tourists who come to Philadelphia still pose for pictures near the Rocky statue.

12) Bull Durham— Kevin Costner is a minor league catcher who is brought in to mentor a hot-shot pitching prospect. Robert Wuhl is the pitching coach, Susan Sarandon mentors the prospect off the field.

11) Draft Day— Costner does lot of sports movies; he is GM of the Cleveland Browns in this one, Denis Leary is the Browns’ coach. 

The year this movie came out, NFL pushed back the draft so the movie could be promoted more, but Radio City Music Hall wasn’t available for the later date, which is why they started moving the draft around the country. Sometimes great ideas happen by accident.

10) Major League— Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Indians’ radio announcer Harry Doyle.

9) Friday Night Lights— Billy Bob Thornton is a high school football coach in west Texas, where they take high school football very seriously. 

8) One on One— Robby Benson is a hotshot high school basketball player who gets recruited by a big-time college team, then finds himself in over his head.

7) For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner is a star pitcher for the Tigers who is at the end of his career; he has flashbacks throughout his last game. 

Detroit’s manager in this movie is JK Simmons, who is a Tigers fan in real life; New York’s manager is the late Augie Garrido, one of the all-time great college baseball coaches.

6) Any Given Sunday— Al Pacino is a pro football coach whose team is struggling; Cameron Diaz is the owner, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx are two of the QB’s.

Miami Sharks play against four teams in the movie, all coached by NFL Hall of Famers.

5) Invincible— True story about Vince Papale, a 30-year old bartender who tries out for the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles and makes the squad as a special teams player.

4) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan manages a New York City deli until he applies for a job as a college basketball coach in Nevada. Bernard King, Michael Warren are two of his players; another one is a girl disguised as a guy.

3) Blue Chips— Nick Nolte is a college basketball coach who used to win a lot; in order to start winning again, he has to decide whether to break the recruiting rules or not.

Bob Cousy is the AD; Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway are two of the recruits. Lot of cameos from basketball people; Jerry Tarkanian, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale.

2) Moneyball— Beginning isn’t very good, the end sucks, but I’m an A’s fan and this movie is about how the 2003 A’s put together a team that won 20 games in a row, made the playoffs.

Only really bad thing about this movie is they made skipper Art Howe look like a bad manager, and he was anything but— you don’t win 20 games in a row by accident. 

1) American Underdog— Kurt Warner’s story had to become a movie; he played in NFL Europe, worked in a supermarket, played in the Arena League, then became an NFL Hall of Famer. It is such an improbable movie that it would seem ridiculous, except we know it is true. 

Friday’s Den: Quick thoughts on the 2023 NFL schedule

Before I start, thanks to Ken Thomson for having me on his excellent radio show Thursday; it is always fun and an honor to chop it up with one of the best in the business. 

— Aaron Rodgers’ Jets get five primetime games, plus the Black Friday game in November against the Dolphins— that game is a 3pm local time kickoff, the day after Thanksgiving. 

— Cardinals, Colts, Falcons, Texans do not have any primetime games scheduled; the NFL’s schedule team doesn’t have high hopes for these teams.

— Thanksgiving tripleheader:
Packers @ Detroit
Commanders @ Dallas
49ers @ Seattle

— Christmas tripleheader:
Raiders @ Kansas City
Giants @ Philadelphia
Ravens @ San Francisco

— In Weeks 2-3, there are two games on Monday night:
Week 2: Saints @ Carolina, Browns @ Pittsburgh
Week 3: Eagles @ Tampa Bay, Rams @ Cincinnati

— Division rival Cowboys-Giants meet in Week 1 for 7th time in the last 12 years.

— There are conference final rematches, but both are later in the season; 49ers travel to Philadelphia in Week 13; the Bengals go to Kansas City on New Year’s Eve in Week 17.

— Deshaun Watson’s Cleveland Browns visit Houston, Watson’s old home, on Christmas Eve in Week 16.

— The two New Jersey teams visit Las Vegas on consecutive weekends in November; Giants visit the Raiders in Week 9, Jets visit in Week 10. 

Raiders’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was with the Giants two years ago, got passed over for their head coaching job when Big Blue hired Brian Daboll.

— Over is 11-0 in the Lions’ last 11 season openers; over is 7-0-1 in Kansas City’s last eight.

Last 20 years, the defending Super Bowl champ is 11-6-3 ATS in Week 1 the next year.
Last 20 years, the Super Bowl loser is 4-16 ATS in Week 1 the next year.

— Baltimore Ravens have three divisional games in the first five weeks; they’ve got only one divisional game in December. Lamar Jackson missed their last six games last year, their last four games the year before.

— Buffalo Bills have three consecutive primetime games in Weeks 8-10.

— New Orleans Saints play their five AFC opponents in the season’s first eight weeks; they also don’t have any cold weather games, unless November 5 in Chicago turns nasty.

— Detroit Lions have four primetime games, plus their traditional Thanksgiving game; high expectations for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. 

— This is the first time since 2016 that Jacksonville is favored in its road opener. 

— NFL Week 1 pointspreads:
Lions +7 @ Kansas City
Bengals -2.5 @ Cleveland
Buccaneers +5.5 @ Minnesota
Panthers +1.5 @ Atlanta

Jaguars -3.5 @ Indianapolis
49ers -2.5 @ Pittsburgh
Texans +9.5 @ Baltimore
Titans +3.5 @ New Orleans

Cardinals +5.5 @ Washington
Packers +3 @ Chicago
Raiders +4 @ Denver
Eagles -3.5 @ New England

Dolphins +3 @ LA Chargers
Rams +4.5 @ Seattle
Cowboys -2.5 @ NJ Giants
Bills -2 @ NJ Jets

Wednesday’s Den: Some quick thoughts before we see the NFL schedule

The entire 2023 NFL schedule gets released Thursday night; the league released its schedule of international games Wednesday.

— There will be three games in England:
October 1— Falcons-Jaguars, Wembley Stadium
October 8— Bills-Jaguars, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
October 15— Ravens-Titans, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

This will be first time a team plays two games in one season overseas.

There will be two games in Frankfurt, Germany:
November 5— Dolphins-Chiefs
November 12— Colts-Patriots

— League also leaked some other games:
Week 1 Sunday night— Dallas @ Giants
November 24— Dolphins @ Jets
October 29— Giants vs Jets
Christmas Day— Giants @ Eagles
December 31— Bengals-Chiefs

Questions/comments that I have about the schedule:
— Since 1992, Green Bay’s starting QB has either been Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers; this year, it is going to be Jordan Love. Sometimes you can tell the league’s expectations for a team when you look at their schedule, as far aa how many 4:25/primetime games they get.

Will be interesting to look at Green Bay’s schedule.

— How many primetime games will Aaron Rodgers’ Jets get? We already know they have the Black Friday game against Miami.

— Deshaun Watson’s Cleveland Browns visit Houston this year; is that a primetime game?

— With Kyler Murray slated to miss the start of the season (knee) you’d rather play Arizona in September, right? Plus, Cardinals have a first-time head coach and two first-time coordinators.

Colt McCoy figures to start at QB until Murray is ready to go.

— Houston Texans are on their fourth head coach in four years; how quickly will they start their rookie QB?

— Seeing how Lamar Jackson missed the Ravens’ last six games last year, and their last four the year before, it’ll be interesting to see where the NFL places their six divisional games.

— Last two years, LA Rams went 0-7 in November; they’re going to have a very young roster this season. Will they even be in contention when November rolls around? 

— Over the last 20 years, Super Bowl winners have done well against the spread in Week 1 the following season (11-6-3 ATS); the Super Bowl loser is 4-16 ATS in Week 1 the last 20 years.

Who will the Eagles open up against this year, with their two new coordinators? Both their coordinators from last year are now head coaches, in Arizona/Indianapolis.

— For first time in a long time, Detroit Lions have big expectations this season; how many games will they get in prime-time?

— It is possible that three of four teams in the AFC South will start rookie QBs this season; probably not in Week 1, but Trevor Lawrence, at some point, is going to be the AFC South’s most experienced starting QB— he’s played two years in the NFL.

— Carolina Panthers have a new coach, a new (rookie) QB; you’d rather play them early in the season, right?

— Frank Reich coaches the Panthers now; his old team, Indianapolis, visits Charlotte this year. Could very well be a game with two rookie QB’s facing each other.

Colts haven’t had the same starting QB two years in a row since Andrew Luck, in 2015-16. 

— This time tomorrow we’ll know the 2023 schedule; as Bud Grant used to say, “It isn’t who you play, it’s when you play them.”

Very true. 

Tuesday’s Den: 13 of my favorite movie scenes…….

13) Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup on the witness stand in A Few Good Men– “You WANT me on that wall; you NEED me on that wall!!!” Great acting. 

12) In Prince of Tides, when Nick Nolte’s character takes Barbra Streisand’s husband’s Stradivarius violin and dangles it over the edge of the balcony, until he apologizes to his wife for being rude. Then he tosses the million-dollar violin in the air but catches it, then walks out of the dinner party. 

11) In Any Given Sunday, when QB Willie Beamen visits the coach’s house for dinner and a “talk” and coach Tony D’Amato lectures him— “You’re the goddamn quarterback!!!” 

I think this scene is better than the “Game of Inches” speech that Pacino gives near the end of the movie, before the last game. 

10) Rocky II wasn’t a good movie, but the last fight scene, where Rocky Balboa wins the heavyweight title for the first time, is a great fight scene, probably the best scene in all the Rocky movies. 

9) In the movie Heat, there is a scene with Al Pacino (the cop) and Robert DeNiro (bank robber) where they actually talk in a diner about how someday, their situation will come to a head and either the arrest will be made, or harm will come to the cop. DeNiro and Pacino; a great scene. 

8) Susan Sarandon and James Spader were in a 1990 movie called White Palace; I only saw this movie for the first time in the last couple years. 

There is a scene where a lot of people were at Thanksgiving dinner and they’re talking about politics; the patriarch of the family is Steven Hill (the original DA on Law and Order). 

When a younger person says something Hill’s character sees as uninformed, he snaps at her, “Would it kill you to pick up a newspaper?” Good stuff. 

7) In the true story Invincible, when 30-year old bartender Vince Papale breaks the news to his best friend that he made the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster, despite never having played college football. 

6) In Friday Night Lights, when the coach (Billy Bob Thornton) delivers a halftime speech when his team is getting smoked. He talks about “being perfect” and how giving your all is the most important thing of all. 

Of all the sports movies I’ve seen, I think Thornton’s character in this movie is the best portrayal of a coach that I’ve seen. 

5) In the original Bad News Bears, when the coach is talking to his worst player, ordering him into the championship game- the kid is too nervous to go out and play. 

“Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.”

4) In Roxanne, Steve Martin’s character has a very long nose, like Cyrano de Bergerac; guy in a bar insults his long nose, the whole bar shuts down, and Martin mocks the insult. 

“I suppose you could do better?” and Martin proceeds to give 20 jokes (actually 26) that were all funnier than the guy’s insult. 

3) In Rounders, the scene where Mike (Matt Damon) finds his law professor (Martin Landau) in a restaurant and the professor tells him how his parents disowned him because he chose to study the law instead of becoming a rabbi.

2) Oakland A’s 20-game winning streak in Moneyball; at least they showed Miguel Tejada’s walk-off homer in the 18th straight win- they gave him almost no credit in the book/movie for how good the A’s were that year— he was the best shortstop in the game that year. 

1) Bob Cousy shooting free throws in an empty gym with Nick Nolte in Blue Chips. Cousy was 65 at the time, made 10 in a row while wearing a shirt and tie- they filmed the scene in one take. He made the last foul shot left-handed.